On the way down to the office this morning I foolishly listened to some talk radio and Pat Kenny was pretending to chat with an underling from the sports department in RTE. They were discussing with not inconsiderable excitement the news that the powers that be had announced that the Olympic Flame would “visit” Northern Ireland. Portrush, Derry, Newry and then the Belfastian urban conurbation will be blessed with its presence.

Having dispatched a hidden slur on the Chinese (“sure didn’t they take it up Mount Everest?!” – subtext: Chinese are very hard working but they just don’t know what to be doing with their ingenuity and so our fated supremacy is secure), Pat and his professional buddy turned their attention to the possibility that the FLAME might visit Dublin. This flame had already been invested with such significance that it can now make visits to EU capitals on a whim.

Much cooing followed as they speculated on the boost that this potential visit would be to the good burghers of Dublin, the status symbol it would represent to some sports council funded by nationally tolerated gambling and then finally, something like, “a fitting symbol considering the historic week we’ve had of the growing friendship between our two nations”. It would be an honour for “local sportspeople” to carry the flame.

We must leave aside the ludicrous idea that Liz Windsor’s visit to Ireland is some sign of a matured relationship (as Patrick perhaps suggests?). This idea is being bandied around by the media with such regularity that living on this island is starting to feel like a slightly rainier version of the scene from the end of Clockwork Orange, whereby we are assaulted with a message until we absorb it. The manner in which the Olympic torch, nay, flame, was discussed was indistinguishable from conversations that might be had about the body of St. Therese of Lisieux.

If the Queen’s visit reveals much more about our spiritual life than church attendance figures, the way in which we invest meaning in a sculpted piece of carbonite covered metal bearing a non-toxic flame carried by a sinewy man in a vest around the streets of Newry or Dublin tells us a lot about the wonders that is contemporary spirituality. The dogma is gone. We’re left with the relics.

Is it just the Presbyterian in me or is that the worst kind of deal?

Your Correspondent, Nobody wants to hear him ’cause his rhymes are so frantic.

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